Every accident is different, thus the amount you will be entitled to is difficult to estimate. However, insurance companies do use a formula to get a starting number to begin negotiations. This is for compensatory damages. If you are entitled to punitive damages, that number could be much higher for your car accident claim compensation, depending on the circumstances.
Compensatory damages are paid to cover any expense you incurred due to injury. They are often referred to as special damages. Compensatory damages include:
- Medical bills including ambulance and emergency services, inpatient charges, charges for doctor office visits and any aids you may need, such as a cane, wheelchair, walker or braces;
- Cost of future medical care for injuries sustained in an incident including psychological appointments and physical therapy appointments;
- Loss of earnings – keep track of how many days or hours you lose from work;
- Loss of future earnings – get a doctor’s note with the amount of time you will expect to be out of work;
- Costs associated with altered plans, including travel plans; and
- Household expenses.
Additionally, general compensatory damages include mental anguish, pain and suffering, and loss of consortium (companionship).
If a loved one died as a result of the car accident, you may also be entitled to wrongful death damages, including:
- Funeral expenses,
- Burial expenses,
- Medical care that your loved one received prior to death,
- Loss of financial contribution,
- Emotional distress,
- Loss of consortium and companionship, and
- Loss of services and support.
Punitive damages are awarded to the plaintiff – the person suing for damages – when the defendant’s behavior was reprehensible. In a car accident case, this could mean that the driver was driving under the influence or even if that person was driving distracted. The defendant must have known that his or her actions would cause injury or death and carried on regardless.
The Damages Formula
In many cases that result in personal injury compensation, including car accident cases, the insurance companies review discovery, which includes medical bills and proof of other compensatory damages. The adjuster adds up the total medical expenses. The adjuster than multiplies that amount by a number from 1.5 to 5 – sometimes higher, depending on the circumstances. The more serious the injury, the higher the number the insurance adjuster uses.
Once the adjuster arrives at that number, he or she adds lost wages and lost future wages. This is the number that an insurance company starts negotiations with.
If you are entitled to punitive damages, they may be capped by state law in some circumstances. However, the insurance adjuster will also negotiate that number.
How Much Should I Sue for Personal Injury?
It’s always best to discuss this with your attorney, as you may be entitled to more damages than you think you are. Save all medical bills and other costs related to your personal injury lawsuit. Keep a diary of lost work, dates you went to the doctor and treatments you had that are related to your car accident injuries. These amounts will be used to determine how much you get for your personal injury claim. Serious injury compensation claims are worth more than minor injuries, as you may have future medical expenses.
How Long Does It Take Before Receiving Money?
This depends on negotiations and how fast the insurance company moves. Generally, once you file a lawsuit, the defendant has a certain number of days to respond. Once the defendant responds, the case goes through the discovery phase. If you have most of the evidence and get the required documents to your attorney fast, you can settle your case quicker if you don’t go to trial. Discovery does have a time limit, so the defendant must provide requested documents, which could include bank account and asset information, along with any proof he or she may have that the accident was not his or her fault.
Once all discovery has been provided by both sides, your attorney may start negotiating with the insurance company’s attorneys. You could get paid rather quickly once the process of discovery is finished. However, if you do not accept the insurance company’s offer and decide to take the case to court, you could wait months or even over a year to receive compensation, depending on the circumstances.
Can I Negotiate the Settlement Directly with the Insurance Company?
Technically, you could, but whenever you are dealing with a bodily injury settlement, it’s always a good idea to have an attorney who is experienced in negotiations. The ins and outs of personal injury law are complicated and the insurance company will do anything – hopefully within the law – to pay less. If you believe you are entitled to punitive damages, you should definitely retain an attorney to help you with your case. Not all car accident victims are entitled to punitive damages, and in some cases, you may be entitled to go over the capped amount.